After losing the NFC Championship game following the 2008 season, former Eagles President and General Manager Joe Banner reminded fans of Albert Einstein’s quote: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Yet here we are again with another set of polls suggesting that voters are dissatisfied with Joe Biden and the direction he has led the country and that Republicans should expect electoral victories, followed by another disappointing election day and the third Republican primary debate that left me wondering if the candidates running (against Trump) are tone deaf?
I’m about to make my conservative and Republican friends, who usually agree with me, angry, but I hope I’ll make you think. If you decide I’m a RINO, so be it, but I’m tired of losing.
In the days leading up to election day 2023, a New York Times–Siena College poll caused what Democratic strategists called a “five-alarm fire.” The poll showed former President Donald Trump with a lead over President Joe Biden “in five of the six most important battleground states.” The Times wrote that Biden was “suffering from enormous doubts about his age and deep dissatisfaction over his handling of the economy and a host of other issues.
The data was so distressing to Democrats that the Times wrote stories explaining the survey methods and why they felt such unbelievable (to Dems) findings were valid. At the same time, they offered excuses and apologies for the results, much like a Washington Post-ABC News poll did last September.
Among the other top-line findings: 67 percent say the country is heading in the wrong direction versus 22 percent who believe it’s heading in the right direction. The poll also found that 59 percent disapprove of the way Biden is handling his job as president, compared to 38 percent who approve.
When asked who did a better job on vital issues, Trump won four (the economy, immigration, national security, and Israel/Palestine) compared to Biden’s two (democracy and abortion). Another important finding is that the majority say that Biden’s policies have hurt them personally while the majority think Trump’s policies helped them.
The poll also asks whether respondents think abortion should be legal or illegal: 62 percent said always or mostly legal, 30 percent always or mostly illegal.
There is much more in the poll. If you’d like to look at the data and crosstabs, here’s the link.
On election day, CNN released its poll conducted by SSRS Research, which showed results that closely matched the New York Times-Siena College data.
Since then, yet another poll, this time by Morning Consult – Bloomberg, shows similar results.
But forget the polls. Voters had their say in the voting booths, which is what matters. The GOP had been expecting good news, but as in 2022 and the special elections since then, the night disappointed Republicans.
First, popular Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear won a second term, defeating Daniel Cameron, the state’s attorney general. Beshear’s win was not surprising. His father is a former Kentucky governor. Beshear out-fundraised Cameron and led in the polls throughout the campaign. Although Cameron was closing the gap, he never led.
Cameron got caught up in the abortion issue. He had backed a no-exceptions abortion bill before suggesting that he would support rape and incest exceptions and then reverting to his original position. Beshear ran an effective TV ad with a woman who told a story of being raped when she was 12 and the thought of being forced to carry the baby to term (she miscarried). Beshear campaigned by running away from Biden. As the governor of a coal-producing state, he didn’t venture into climate change. In the end, he won by five points.
Next came Ohio, which has become increasingly red since Barack Obama won the Buckeye State’s electoral votes in 2012. Two referendums were on the ballot. One allowed voters to legalize recreational marijuana. The other enshrined unfettered abortion rights into the state’s constitution. Both passed with about 56 percent of the vote. Writing abortion rights into the state’s constitution was a shock to pro-life activists and Republicans nationwide.
The knockout punch may have come in Virginia, where the state’s popular governor, Glenn Youngkin, worked diligently to flip the state Senate while maintaining the House of Delegates in hopes of a “trifecta” (the governorship and control of both chambers of the statehouse) to push his agenda through. Youngkin campaigned relentlessly and poured money in from his Spirit of Virginia PAC.
Youngkin tried to reach a conciliatory tone on abortion, getting candidates in his party to sign on to a ban after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. He tried to position Democrats who support no restrictions, including on late-term abortion, as the extremists. Not only did Republicans fail to flip the upper chamber, Democrats took control of the House.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey provided more losses for the GOP. Democrats added another state Supreme Court seat in the Keystone State and suffered losses across the Philadelphia suburban counties – including the Central Bucks school board, which is a tragic story itself. Pride flags will fly in Bucks County schools, and some books that rational parents wouldn’t want young teens to have access to may return to school libraries soon.
Candidates from the WFP (Working Family Party – a polite name for Socialist) candidates won two at-large seats on the Philadelphia City Council, traditionally held by Republicans. The Republican Party is all but extinct in the City of Brotherly Love.
In New Jersey. Republicans hoped to make gains in the statehouse. Instead, both the state Senate and General Assembly got bluer. In the state Senate, Republicans lost one net seat to Democrats, with the margin increasing from ten to twelve. It’s worse in the General Assembly, where Democrats flipped a net of five seats and will improve a twelve-seat advantage to 22.
There were Republican victories in Mississippi, Louisiana, and all statewide offices besides governor in Tennessee, but nothing worth getting excited about.
Still in a sour mood 24 hours after the election results came in, I was curious to see what lessons the five candidates on the stage for the third Republican Primary Debate learned. Although it’s unlikely any of the five will become the Party’s nominee, I was still eager to see if they had heard the voters.
Trump will be Trump regardless of what happens, so I don’t expect him to change. But Trump probably has the best command of the abortion issue.
Republicans don’t want to hear this, but abortion is the primary reason the Party continues to lose elections. Whether in referendums such as in Ohio in November this year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court election, or the Wisconsin Supreme Court election earlier this year, elections demonstrate that voters will show up to express their strong preference for pro-choice policies.
What polls aren’t reflecting is the potency of the abortion issue.
When we look back on the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, it may prove to be the Supreme Court’s worst political decision since the Dred Scott ruling in 1857, which stated African Americans could not be considered American citizens. It took the Civil War to correct that decision.
For 50 years, Republican leaders said that Roe was a poorly constructed decision and that individual states should make the choice. In the aftermath of Dobbs, many Republicans began to push for various bans on abortion. States did, in fact, take their own paths. Clearly, there is no demand for abortion bans. Everywhere it has been on the ballot, pro-choice forces have won – overwhelmingly.
Admittedly, abortion isn’t a significant factor when I decide who to vote for, but by now, the Republican Party must admit that it is driving Democrat victories. I find winning on the economy, crime, the border, energy production, spending, national security, and foreign policy far more important than abortion.
Republicans can’t impact those issues when they keep losing elections because of abortion, which, in poll after poll, looks like the New York Times–Siena College poll quoted earlier. Other polls, such as Pew Research in 2022, show nearly identical results.
To win elections, Republicans must stop talking about banning abortion at six, fifteen, or eighteen weeks. No candidate who favors banning abortion with no exceptions should receive the endorsement of the Republican Party. It is better to focus on making the Democrats’ position extreme. Talk only about prohibiting late-term abortion. Trump seems to understand this narrative better than any other candidate in the field.
In the third Republican debate, the night after the 2023 elections, Nikki Haley demonstrated she could discuss the issue among the remaining candidates in a manner that has a chance of success in the general election.
Ron DeSantis pivoted from the reality of signing a six-week abortion ban in Florida, which makes it difficult to imagine him winning a general election, to the story of a mother in Jamaica 40-45 years ago who decided against an abortion and his appointment of the baby girl who was born, to the Florida Supreme Court.
I appreciated when Chris Christie pointed out the hypocrisy of Republicans suddenly finding a role for the federal government in abortion law. Then he reminded people he was pro-life and spoke about “being pro-life for the whole life.”
As I listened to their answers, it was clear that the candidates were aware of the election. Other than Tim Scott (who since left the race,) they moderated their answers. I watched in amazement and wondered if they were all tone-deaf. At least Haley is saying that there isn’t going to be legislation that bans abortion for any president to sign.
I understand this is heresy among a portion of the Republican Party. That portion believes we cannot win without them – maybe. What’s certain is we can’t win with them. That takes us full circle to Einstein’s quote at the start of this column. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Andy Bloom is President of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT, WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles, and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President of Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc., and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter@AndyBloomCom.